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Why a Yogi Is Wary of Small Desires

be wary of desires

To someone who asked about my statement that simple liking or preference can develop into intense desire (raga) or aversion (dwesha).

Our problem is that the human mind is complex and deep–so deep that it is capable of hiding things from us and deceiving us as to the truth of many things, including ourselves. For example, I have known people that thought they loved someone they profoundly hated, and thought they hated something or someone they were intensely attracted to.

Further, the character of something may not be perceived when its presence is very slight, only minimal, but will easily be seen when its presence increases–but then it is often too late to change. The Gita tells us:

“For a man dwelling [dhyayato] on the objects of the senses, attachment [sangas] to them is born. From attachment desire [kamah] is born. And from thwarted desire anger is born. From anger arises delusion [sanmohas]; from delusion, loss of memory; from loss of memory, destruction of intelligence [buddhinasho]. From destruction of intelligence one is lost. However, with attraction [raga] and aversion [dwesha] eliminated, even though moving amongst objects of sense, by self-restraint the self-controlled attains tranquility” (Bhagavad Gita 2:62-64). [See 7 Steps to Misuse Your Power of Thought]

Prolonged sangas (affinity), turns into kama (desire) which escalates into raga, (intense desire/addiction).Dyayato means simply thinking about or being aware of something. In itself it is slight, but prolonged thinking develops sangas–affinity. This, too, is quite mild. But prolonged sangas turns into kama–desire–which escalates into raga, intense desire/addiction. And so the chain of delusive bondage grows.

And the only way to avoid it is elimination of raga and dwesha. [See Raga and Dwesha: Key Concepts in Yoga You Should Know] Then alone is the individual safe, yet even then he will have to be sure he maintains that elimination and does not let it come creeping back under a disguise so small or insignificant that he one day finds himself in full-blown desire.

Understanding the possibilities

Therefore we may not even realize the potential of an affinity or even a very slight, dispassionate liking. But it can grow into a very real problem. Liking or enjoying something is not harmful if it makes no attachment begin. But the mind has its ways of turning things around without us even knowing. Therefore the sadhaka must always be alert and vigilant.

Addictions come slowly and usually undetected or even considered impossible. For example, many years ago when I was in my teens a truly venerable and spiritual old man told me that there was danger in drinking “soft drinks” because the manufacturers put in caffeine to make their customers addicted. I did not fully believe him, but I made a test. Every day I drank just one orange soda. In a week I found I began wanting one daily, and usually at the time I ordinarily had one. So I stopped. (Now I know various other reasons to not drink such stuff.)

Self-deception about addictions

People are often not honest with themselves about such things. I read a former alcoholic priest’s account of his addiction and cure.

He said that in his childhood he had heard that if someone did not drink alcohol before noon they were not an alcoholic. So at six every morning he went into the kitchen, poured an entire water glass full of whisky, put his hands around the glass and then sat there holding it and looking at the clock for six hours! Then the moment the minute hand was at twelve, he gulped down the whole thing and said to himself, “Thank God, I am not an alcoholic!” And he kept drinking whisky throughout the rest of the day. But he convinced himself that he was not an alcoholic.

In the same way we are skilled at telling ourselves that our attachments and addictions are harmless.

Just because we think it is just a minor preference, that may not be so. And even if it is, if it is capable of growing into stronger attachment then the wise sadhaka stops it altogether.

Beware of the holes in the wall…

The prophet Ezekiel had an interesting vision.

“He [an angel] brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.

So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about. And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up.

Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The Lord seeth us not” (Ezekiel 8:7-12).

A yogi never endangers himself.A little hole was really a door! From childhood I knew people who would say, “That little thing won’t hurt me.” “There no harm in something like that.” But a yogi never endangers himself, and someone who thinks he is enlightened and therefore beyond danger is utterly deluded. Anyone who thinks he is a Ramakrishna or a Vivekananda is a fool, and he who cites them to cover his own conduct and attachments is a scoundrel of the lowest sort.

Be wise and cautious about small desires

Let us become jivanmuktas and find out about what is retained or not. Until then, we should be wise and cautious, though of course not anxious or obsessive. People who make a great show of their abstinence are egotists and usually secret addicts. But abstinence is still a virtue for the sincere sadhaka.

I well remember how the members of the Hollywood Vedanta Society–including the monastics–bragged about how Swami Prabhavananda would not allow them to be vegetarians “lest we develop spiritual pride.” So they were proud of not being proud! Such wisdom.

As Yogananda said, “Humans are so skillful in their ignorance.” And in preserving it, too.

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